Zinke: Monuments will not be eliminated

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will not recommend President Donald Trump eliminate any monuments, though he will suggest downsizing some.
By Kassondra Cloos ,

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to recommend to President Donald Trump that he should decrease the boundaries of some national monuments.

Zinke told the Associated Press Thursday morning that he would not recommend eliminating any monuments, and that none of the land in question would be sold off. 

“I’ve heard this narrative that somehow the land is going to be sold or transferred,” Zinke told the AP. “That narrative is patently false and shameful. The land was public before and it will be public after.”

A summary of the report Zinke delivered to Trump Thursday morning does not specify which monuments may change, or by how much. Zinke has previously said that there would be no changes to Craters of the Moon, Hanford Reach, Upper Missouri River Breaks, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Canyons of the Ancients, or Sand to Snow National Monuments. He recommended earlier this summer that Trump downsize Bears Ears National Monument.

The vagueness of what has been publicly released surrounding Zinke's recommendations is disappointing, says Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. OIA has rallied companies throughout the industry to loudly and publicly campaign for monuments to stay exactly as they are.

"To now know that there is a report that likely recommends reductions in the size of the monuments, but to not understand what boundary adjustments are being recommended or which monuments might be affected creates a lot of uncertainty and is pretty disappointing," she said Thursday.

Rob Discher, director of public affairs for REI, agreed with Roberts that Zinke's lack of clarity was confusing. Zinke held a press conference when he made recommendations about Bears Ears, yet not even the full report he delivered to Trump Thursday has been made public.

Everyone is trying to "read the tea leaves," Discher said, but REI, along with many other brands and non-profits, is withholding judgement until more information is released. One good thing to come out of the announcement was the recognition that the outdoor industry came out in full force to support national monuments, he added.

"It’s a bit of a head scratcher that they’re not just coming out and giving us some clear direction on what’s going on here," Discher said. 

Roberts urged the industry to keep showing support for monuments and to now direct that energy toward Trump and members of Congress.

"To recommend diminishing the size of just one national monument is one too many," National Parks Conservation Association President and CEO Theresa Pierno said Thursday in a statement. "And it opens the door to allow mining, oil and gas and other destructive development. This could be a devastating blow for all Americans, and our lands and waters that are so deserving of protection."

Since Trump's executive order in April demanding Zinke review about two dozen monuments established in the past 20 years, Zinke has visited with "hundreds" of local stakeholders and the Department of the Interior has reviewed close to 2.4 million comments, according to a press release Interior published Thursday morning. 

"Comments received were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments and demonstrated a well-orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations," the summary of Zinke's report reads.

The monuments' opponents cited concerns over road closures, reduced access to public lands, hunting and fishing restrictions, confusing management plans, reduced grazing allotments and timber production, and pressure on land owners to sell their private property if it was within or adjacent to a monument, the report summary says. The biggest critics were local residents, associated with logging, grazing, mining, hunting and fishing, and motorized recreation industries. 

The White House has not commented on Zinke's report.

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